Always Expecting The Worst: 12 Ways To Stop This Negative Cycle
Expecting the worst every time? Yes, that’s an issue.
Researched, written by Amber & The Team
Updated on May 5, 2023
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Are you someone who is constantly worrying about what could happen? Whether it’s a job interview or going out on a date, you’re always expecting the worst…
Living like this is horrible (trust me, I know) and can seriously impact your life and happiness. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Putting an end to this type of thinking is easier if you understand a few things that can seriously help you to correct your negative mindset.
ALWAYS EXPECTING THE WORST? NO MORE!
Why are we expecting the worst?
Trust me, you’re not the only one, and we’ll be putting an end to this malicious thought cycle right away. But before I share these invaluable tips, let me do a quick brief on why humans are prone to expecting the worst in the first place. Believe it or not, it’s all thanks to your mind that is simply trying to protect you.
When you find yourself in a difficult or scary situation, your mind starts to play infinite scenarios of what can go wrong – and that happens for a reason. Our brain is always interested in our survival. So, if it keeps creating these negative thoughts, and keeps you expecting the worst, it means you’re probably going to do something about the situation.
Humans are famous for performing their best under a little stress. Stress is what keeps you on your toes and pushes you to survival mode, therefore it’s hard for your brain to relax.
What is it called when you always expect the worst?
You can hear this mindset being called “pessimistic thinking” and the person who thinks like that being “negative”.
The whole process of expecting the worst, ruminating, swirling in running thoughts, and creating the worst-case scenarios in your head is often called “catastrophizing” or “catastrophic thinking”.
The good news is that it’s not a condition, and just like anything related to our imagination, it can be helped. Let’s see what you can do to get relief and swap expecting the worst with focusing on the positive, or choosing a better alternative!
12 ways to stop if you’re always expecting the worst
1. Stop Your Imagination
One thing that is important to understand is that things inside your head aren’t real. When you’re expecting the worst, all you’re doing is creating fantasies and imaginary scenarios that may or may not happen. Not every thought you get is based on real facts – some thoughts are just thoughts, or visions that are not real. Therefore, they don’t need to be tampered with. Practice noticing such thoughts and tell yourself: “This is nothing more than a thought”.
Another important thing to note is that it’s impossible to have a plan for every possible scenario. You can be prepared for a few scenarios, but some of them will never have a plan because there are infinite possibilities of the way things can unfold. Your mind may be trying to get you “prepared” for each one of them, but then again – it’s impossible and all you’re doing is stewing in the same soup over and over again.
2. Let Go Of The Things You Can’t Change
Some things can’t be changed no matter how much you worry about them. If there’s nothing you can do about a particular thing or situation, accepting the fact and try to focus on calming your mind and body. Letting it go will help you to stop creating more pain than it is. Whatever happened, happened, but there is no need to keep expecting the worst or to imagine that things will only go south from now on.
3. To Stop Expecting The Worst, Get Things Down On The Paper
Do a brain dump and get all of your thoughts about the situation down on paper. This will help you to find solutions and figure out what is really happening. It might feel intimidating at first, yes – it’s scary to look your mind in the eye (it’s like concentrating your attention on the pain and fear you are feeling). However, after laying it all down, you might find yourself feeling relieved, or even shifting your mindset to something positive already. That’s how powerful it is to look at your thoughts from aside.
If you’re not a fan of journaling your thoughts out, you can also try creating a plan for the absolute worst possible scenario. For example, if you expect to lose your job because you have failed a project, sit down, and write a plan of things you could do if it actually happened. A plan can help you to see that the scenario you fear may not be so bad and that you can actually cope with whatever happens.
4. Start A Thought Diary
Along with the above point, you should start keeping a daily thought diary. In this diary, jot down the thoughts that are keeping you worried and try to challenge them – is this problem real or just hypothetical?
You can also go a little further and analyze this thought. What evidence proves this thought is true? What proves it wrong? How likely is it to happen? If that thought actually materialized, would it really be that bad? Could you think of any options to help yourself in such a situation? What would your friend or loved one say about it? Maybe they could say that it’s not ideal, but solvable? Does negative thinking help you in any way now?
With such analysis, not only can you encourage yourself to think logically, but you can also read your entries later and compare what actually happened to what you thought was going to happen. This will help you to stop expecting the worst in the future because you will be building a new framework of thinking in your mind.
5. Remind Yourself That Things Can Actually Turn Out In Your Favor!
If you think about it, things rarely turn out the worst way you imagine…
Think back over all of the situations you were expecting the worst to happen. You’ll probably realize that most of them turned out completely different from how you thought they would, and some of them even turned out somewhat useful to you.
Maybe you’ve learned a valuable lesson? Or found out some important information? Maybe a difficult situation pushed you to make the necessary changes in your life?
The mind is powerful and can put a positive spin on even the most negative things. You can train your mind to see any situation positively, no matter how negative it might actually be. Put a halt to your negative thoughts and allow yourself to think about positive outcomes too. If something bad can happen, something good can happen too!
6. Realize That Your Mind Is Just Trying To Protect You
Sometimes people are more prone to expecting the worst because they’re using it as a way to protect themselves. After all, if you always expect the worst, you will rarely be disappointed. And sometimes, you may even feel like worrying means you care.
But this doesn’t actually do you any good. By always expecting the worst, you are only hurting yourself, and most importantly – thinking this way won’t protect you from bad things happening. There is no actual value in this worry, and it does not prove you care or are being responsible.
Next time you find yourself expecting the worst in a particular situation, remind yourself that this is just a defense mechanism, your body’s natural way of protecting you from possible harm. If you have examples from the past (when you thought something will be bad and it didn’t), remind yourself of those too. Then go outside, breathe in some fresh air, and tell yourself that you can be okay, no matter the outcome.
7. Identify What You Have Control Over
Some things can be controlled and others can’t. It’s up to you to figure out which is which, but you should only care about the things you can control and let go of the things you can’t. These include other people’s actions and opinions, nature events, time.
However, if there are things that you can control or use to improve the situation, by all means – do it! Sit down, write a small plan, and start doing things that can improve your situation. It’s much more productive than ruminating and expecting the worst because this way, you’re actually doing something to prevent negative outcomes or make them less painful.
8. Ultimately, Just Don’t Expect Anything
Whether you’re dealing with a situation or person, sometimes, it’s best not to expect anything at all. This way, you’ll be okay no matter what happens. It’s not the ultimate, neither the best decision… But sometimes, it’s the only one you can make, especially if the situation is completely unknown to you and others around.
9. Stay Mindful
For people who are regularly expecting the worst, mindfulness can be a lifesaver.
Concentrate on being present in the here and now. This will help you to stop worrying about the future and prevent expecting the worst-case scenarios. Because if you think well, only the present moment is real… Everything else is a mental projection. And it’s up to you whether you want to focus on what’s real or imaginary.
Since this mindset and thought process of expecting the worst is very closely related to anxiety, you should work on lowering your anxiety levels too. It might even be that the source of your catastrophic thinking is, in fact, fueled by anxiety and once you tackle that, you will get your relief.
This article can also help: 10 Simple Ways To Be More Mindful In Your Daily Life
Another beautiful way to calm down daily and minimize the number of bad thoughts in your head is to take a long, brisk walk. It works as a beautiful mind reset and is a scientifically proven way to lower general anxiety and even help you to cope with depression. Plus, exercising allows your brain to release happiness hormones that also play an important role in regulating your thoughts and mood.
10. Spend Time With Friends
Isolating yourself only makes things worse. Surround yourself with positive people and talk to them about your problems. Your friends or family may help you realize that what you’re worrying about probably isn’t such a big deal. Or, even if it is, they can help you to find possible solutions or ways to make this better.
Staying socially connected can also help you to keep your stress at lower levels. Less stress, less anxiety, less catastrophic thinking. Plus, you’re getting the emotional support that can help you to feel more secure.
11. Expand Your Comfort Zone
If you’re always expecting the worst, it could be because you’re stuck in your comfort zone and even the slightest change makes you feel unsafe. Moving? Seasonal changes? Changing your job? Kids starting school? When you’re stuck in your comfort zone, any of these things can feel like the whole world falling over your shoulders. It’s hard, I know. But if you want to stop expecting the worst, you have to confront your fear, little by little, so you feel more stable whenever something new happens.
To make this happen, start gently expanding your boundaries. Start testing yourself, challenging yourself, and taking small risks. Try to do one thing that you’re scared of every day and progressively desensitize yourself. You don’t need to face your biggest fear right away – just think of one thing that feels slightly uncomfortable and do it. Once you feel okay with it, take a step further and do another thing that is a little scarier.
Soon you’ll notice how strong, and capable you can be (even if you fail some of the times, that’s okay too). Your tendency to be expecting the worst will gradually dissipate with each and every small fear you face.
12. Talk To a Therapist
If you’re still expecting the worst after you try all of these ideas, you can always try talking to a professional. A therapist can help you to identify the root causes of your negative thinking and teach you how to think more positively. Sometimes, we develop cognitive distortions – wrong beliefs that seem logical in our head, but when challenged, they show their real nature of being completely irrational! They’re not dangerous, but they’re stealing away your happiness and a therapist can help you to see them. You can also try our Thought Workbook which helps you to find cognitive distortions in your thoughts as well.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeing a therapist and it can actually be that ultimate thing you need to feel better, so don’t hesitate to try it!
I hope these tips will help you to find new ways of thinking and stop always expecting the worst. Life is not only black – there are always grey and white tones everywhere. Learning to shift your focus from the darkness can help you to live a happier and more fulfilling life. You ARE capable of it, even if you don’t feel like it at this moment.
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